The Big Government-Big Pharma Complex: Disease Mongering for Fear and Profit

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Ronit Ridberg has given the world a marvelous look into the fraudulent, Big Government-Big Pharma complex with her documentary film, Big Bucks, Big Pharma: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs. It’s a bit dated, from 2006, but certainly, that is no hindrance to the message of the film. It’s an hour long, but worth every minute of your time. Below, I have compiled a list of some interesting points from the film. I have also included a lot of my own thoughts from my research on issues brought up in the film, so not all of the material I have presented is contained within the documentary.

Big Pharma is a monster that’s long been out of control, and that is due to its chief enabler, big government, whose bureaucrats profit immensely from promoting Big Pharma’s agenda to grow and protect its profits. In spite of what Michael Moore would say, this arrangement is not capitalism, or as he means it, the free market. It is state capitalism, or, as some may call it, socialist corporatism.

  • Industry professionals discuss how Big Pharma normalizes obscure health problems, making them appear common in order to create a new market with a demand for prescription drugs. One Doc interviewed calls this “disease mongering.” For example, after the commercials appeared from GlaxoKlineSmith, suddenly everyone seemed to have Restless Leg Syndrome.

  • Perhaps a most disturbing trend brought up in the film is the wacky, wild world of “things just ain’t right” disorders. Whether it’s “generalized anxiety disorder,” “major depressive disorder,” "panic disorder," “acute social phobia,” or finally, the celebrated “social anxiety disorder,” there’s a disorder to fit you and explain away your day-to-day problems. The film brings up the evil Paxil, which not only utilized direct-to-consumer marketing, but also, SmithKline Beecham took it to the print media to sell its virtues. Reporters lined up to give the drug gobs of attention as a solution for …. shyness. In 1999, US News & World Report ran a cover story, "How Shy is Too Shy?" The story referred to "debilitating shyness" and claimed that "roughly 1 out of every 8 people becomes so timid that encounters with others turn into a source of overwhelming dread." The commercial for Paxil, shown in the film, is akin to something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Also see this marvelously hilarious story by Seth Stevenson, "Extroverted Like Me: How a Month and a Half on Paxil Taught Me to Love Being Shy." Written in 2001, Seth is an introvert who experimented with Paxil for forty-five days so he could write a splendid story highlighting the ineffectiveness and life-changing aspects of a powerful, mind-altering drug.

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a fabricated "disorder." Sarafem, the drug created to treat the non-condition, was nothing more than Prozac repackaged for a new disease. Eli Lilly was losing its exclusive patent to Prozac. Drug patents, as we know, bring drug companies billions in revenues. Sarafem was Prozac, except that it was colored a pretty pink — such a pretty and precious detail for a lady going on her monthly psychotic binge and emotional release. So, an old drug, a new disorder, and a new patent, and Eli Lilly could make a bundle, at least until (or if) the deception caught on with drug consumers. After Warner-Chilcott acquired the U.S. sales and marketing rights to Sarafem, it successfully fought off an attempt from Teva Pharmaceuticals to make a generic version. The film notes that when executives from Eli Lilly met with the FDA to discuss approval of the drug for its made-up disorder, one-third of the members of the FDA committee had ties to Eli Lilly. This is from the website of Warner-Chilcott:

PMDD is a distinct medical condition. Common symptoms include irritability, sadness, sudden mood changes, tension, bloating, and breast tenderness. The many symptoms of PMDD can markedly interfere with your daily activities and relationships and can make you feel out of control. Some women describe PMDD as frustrating, surprising, tiring, or even isolating. It can take away your enjoyment of family, friends, or work. Some think it’s part of being a woman or PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). But for millions it is PMDD.

Also see Alice Rebensdorf’s 2001 superb article on Prozac-turned-Sarafem: Sarafem: The Pimping of Prozac for PMS.

  • Then there’s Prilosec, developed by Astra-Merck (which became AstraZeneca), which was one of the best-selling prescription drugs of all time. In five years, revenues from the drug totaled $26 billion. The company went to court and won extra months of protection to sell Prilosec exclusively while it was working on its successor, Nexium. This drug was Prilosec repackaged in a pretty purple with yellow stripes, and it was marketed as the "purple pill." The two drugs had a different active ingredient that did the same thing. The price of Nexium was almost seven times that of Prilosec, and it came with a new patent. In one year, almost $500 million was spent on promoting its use. One commercial in the film shows a precious purple pill floating lazily above the earth, as if to hypnotize the sheeple viewer.

  • Move on to Phizer’s Lipitor, which quickly became the best selling pharmaceutical drug in history. Lipitor is a me-too (copycat) drug which was preceded by Mevacor, Pravachol, and Zocor. The film makes the obvious connection between the statin drug explosion — especially the sales of Lipitor — and the changing of cholesterol guidelines recommending much lower target levels for LDL cholesterol. This, of course, would lead to the huge boost in statin drug use. Out of the nine cholesterol "experts" who worked on the new guidelines, it was reported that six of them had financial ties (speaking fees, research grants, etc.) to drug companies. Changing the guidelines redefines what it means to be sick. More "sick" people will allow for more drugs to be prescribed. Under the new guidelines, millions of people will be on statin drugs for the rest of their lives.

  • The facts at the time of the film: at least one million children under the age of eighteen are taking anti-depressants. Normal teenage anxieties became a profitable "illness" for Big Pharma.

  • Medical and pharmaceutical professionals talk about the massive and costly effort on the part of pharmaceutical companies to purchase doctor loyalty. They evade the rules by categorizing all activities as "education," and therefore all the shenanigans are legal, and that includes kickbacks to MDs. Big Pharma tracks these doctors and what they prescribe, so they know what to spend and where to spend it.

  • Also brought up in the film is the Big Pharma president, George W. Bush. Appointed Bush cronies in the FDA assisted Bush in the interfering with FDA sanction letters for advertising infractions that were to be sent to pharmaceutical companies. Anything to fill the Republican campaign coffers.

  • Congressional legislation — from those who purport to serve your interests in government — promotes and serves the pharmaceutical industry with its laws and agencies. The agents of government benefit financially from protecting Big Pharma and its profits though patents, agency rulemaking, and political pandering.

The day before I put this together, I was at my doctor’s office. He’s a D.O., and highly sympathetic to holistic health and homeopathic remedies, which is why I decided on him as my primary traditional MD. I had heard him appear often on a local AM radio morning show, and I liked his take on natural solutions and preventative health. This was about fifteen years ago when I was first starting to make major changes toward all things natural. While waiting in the room for the Doc, I couldn’t help but notice, more than ever, that every item in the room had a Big Pharma label on it. This includes the box of facial tissues, the wastebaskets, and the pens. The office area was also littered with Big Pharma’s gifts. Do people find this eerie, if not sinister?

At the Tennessee farm, July 2009.

Karen DeCoster [send her mail] is a libertarian accounting/finance professional and writer. She rides a Harley, shoots lots of guns, and buys Boston Legal DVDs. She likes to put in long miles on her hybrid bicycle, lift heavy weights, use the crock-pot, overindulge on Gouda cheese, do primal workouts, play Frisbee, get lost in the woods, and hang out at Bass Pro Shops. She won’t trade in her clunker for cash and it is highly unlikely that she will become a Czar in the Obama administration. She openly advocates resistance to the current regime in power. This is her LewRockwell.com archive and her Mises.org archive. Check out her website.

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